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American Airlines Flight Attendant Faces Federal Charges For Child Pornography

An American Airlines flight attendant allegedly used a concealed iPhone in the bathroom to record video.

American Airlines flight attendant Estes Carter Thompson III is facing federal child pornography charges after being accused of attempting to secretly record a 14-year-old girl in an airplane restroom, according to CNN. Thompson, 36, was arrested in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Jan. 18, charged with attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor.

Jodi Cohen, the special agent in charge of FBI Boston, condemned the alleged actions, stating, “What Mr. Thompson is accused of doing is disgraceful, and we believe, calculated, given that this alleged conduct occurred on at least five flights.”

The incident occurred in September during a flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Boston. Thompson is accused of directing the 14-year-old girl to use the first-class lavatory, where he had allegedly concealed his iPhone to record her. The girl discovered red stickers with inscriptions like “INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT” and “SEAT BROKEN” under the toilet seat lid.

“It is alleged that, beneath the red stickers, Thompson had concealed his iPhone to record a video,” the release said.

After taking pictures of the stickers and the concealed phone, the girl reported the incident to her parents, who informed the flight attendants. The pilot was notified upon reaching Boston, and the girl’s father confronted Thompson, who locked himself in the restroom for several minutes. Police suspect he may have attempted to erase evidence from his phone.

A subsequent search of Thompson’s suitcase revealed 11 stickers similar to those found in the restroom. Additionally, police discovered four recordings on his iCloud account depicting minors between the ages of 7 and 14 using the plane’s restroom, along with photos of a 9-year-old and images of child pornography generated by artificial intelligence.

After the incident, American Airlines promptly withheld Thompson from service, stating, “We take these allegations very seriously. They do not reflect our airline or our core mission of caring for people. We have been fully cooperating with law enforcement in its investigation, as there is nothing more important than the safety and security of our customers and team.”

Thompson will remain in custody until his court date in the Western District of Virginia and subsequently faces federal court in Boston. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison for attempted sexual exploitation of children and up to 20 years for possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor, with both charges carrying the possibility of supervised release, fines up to $250,000, and restitution.

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